Welcome to the Mönchehaus in Goslar. Before you head on into the museum, take a moment to look at the historic carvings around the portal. The images actually reveal a secret: they tell of the licentious goings-on of some monks of the Augustinian order. The Augustinians arrived in the town more than 500 years ago and devoted themselves most wondrously to dealing with the difficulties of Goslar’s childless women. The results were quite fruitful.
At the very top, the door guards keep watch -- two male figures, armed with clubs and carrying flower garlands. They are supposed to welcome the visitor and ward off any impending disaster. Below them, we have a man on the left and a woman on the right.
Next to the woman's head is a blossoming rose as an emblem of love. The woman is holding a child by the hand, and her bulging abdomen symbolises her fertility. Have you noticed the little monk’s head on her right, sneakily catching a peek? You can tell it’s supposed to be a monk by the typical cap worn by the Augustinian order. This chap is looking at the woman’s rounded belly and smiling contentedly now the deed is done.
The trees of life beneath the figures bear little children's heads as fruit.
The Augustinian order had a house on this site that was dedicated to the healing arts. The monks attracted visitors with a home-brewed "magic potion", which was said to help desperate women conceive the children they longed for. And indeed, the women's visits to the mendicant friars were fruitful, and their desire for children was granted.
However, the burghers of Goslar found out about the dubious services provided by the monks and ultimately ran them out of town. The Mönchehaus was built on the site of the original monastic house.
In order to banish all evil from the town in future, the carvings include several chimeras, or grotesques. Known as Bleeker locally, they’re meant to keep all evil at bay by their sheer ugliness.
The grotesque faces on the fig leaves worn by the door guards were meant to ward off one of the most dreaded diseases, syphilis. Another chimera, in the shape of a lion showing its tongue, was designed to protect the noble occupants of the house from all evil.
Fotos: © Mönchehaus Museum